Now we come to the Feats, Traits, and Equipment. Where the class abilities gave you specific options in the Occult Adventures book to choose from, these options span many sources. I’ll be focusing on those provided in the books that can be referenced on Paizo’s PRD, with the addition of Occult Adventures, which isn’t on the PRD as of the writing of this guide, but I expect it to be there in a reasonable amount of time.
Feats are possibly the most complicated choice players have to make, and new players in particular have trouble deciding what options are good for their character. Thankfully the Occultist isn’t a feat heavy class, so you don’t have to worry too much about being feat starved.
I’m going to begin by listing a few feats that are never “bad” choices that appear in the core rulebook, as this will help set a baseline. I’ll then proceed through each book and note the blue and green options, with a few orange thrown in (and maybe a red option or two if I think they might be traps).
Core Rulebook Feats
Skill Feats: This includes feats like Acrobatic or Magical Aptitude that grant a +2 to two different skills. I mention them here as a group, since you probably won’t need to take any of them. You’ve got plenty of skill ranks, so you don’t have to worry about these little boosts. Additionally, Skill Focus (which grants a +3 to one skill) is likewise not very good. Some builds enjoy it, but it’s a bit redundant for the Occultist.
Armor Proficiency (Heavy): Melee focused Occultists are going to want as high an AC as they can get. You could dip into fighter (or similar) to gain the heavy armor training, but dipping with an Occultist can dent your progression substantially (you’re already getting spells later than you’d like). Instead, picking up Heavy Armor Training as a feat isn’t a bad choice, as you aren’t a feat dependent class. You can hold off until level 3 or 5 to pick this up, however, as medium armor will hold up for a few levels, and you won’t have the money for full plate at first level anyway.
Combat Casting: If you’re planning to be in the thick of things then you should consider picking up Combat Casting early. It’s a good first level choice if you want to be able to cast while in melee with an enemy.
Combat Expertise & Improved Maneuvers: Since you’re going to have a high intelligence, you might consider learning a few tricks to use in combat. Disarm, Trip, and Dirty Trick are all decent options that can provide opportunities for your party heavy hitters (if you aren’t one). If you’re a dex build you should also look at the Agile Maneuvers feat. These are rated as orange simply because an Occultist likely has better things to do on his turn, but if you have the feats to burn you might like having an additional combat option.
Point-Blank Shot & Ranged Feats: These include Deadly Aim, Point-Blank Shot, and all the other feats that tie into it (like Precise Shot, Rapid Shot, ect). If you’re going with an archery build, then you’re likely to be putting every feat you get into these. It’s a heavy chain to push into, but with Transmutation’s Gravity Bow spell and Legacy Weapon focus power and you can put out a lot of damage. If this is your plan, you might want to consider being a Human for the extra feat, since this is a feat heavy road to travel.
Dodge & mobility feats: The Dodge chain isn’t a bad one, especially for martial characters with a full BaB, but it doesn’t really hold up for the Occultist, who doesn’t need to charge in right away to be effective, or move about the battlefield much.
Eschew Materials: It depends on your GM, but if yours is a stickler about material components then this is an amazing feat to pick up. Normally you won’t need it (as drawing the components is part of casting) but you’d be surprised how often a lack of a component bag can come up.
Great Fortitude, Iron Will, & Lightning Reflexes: Bonus saves can help to shore up your failings, or to boost a good save into even more reliable territory. However, it’s probably better to get a +1 from a trait than to spend a feat on a +2. The improved versions, however, are almost never worth it.
Improved Counterspell: You’re not going to have the spell levels to make this worth it most of the time.
Improved Initiative: Going first is especially important if you’re filling a crowd control or battlefield control role. If you’re not trying to lock down multiple opponents with debuffs and area spells then this drops to orange.
Power Attack, Cleave, & beyond: If you’re intending to hit things with a big weapon (which is an option) then you’re going to want to pick up Power Attack at level 3 (you can’t until then because of your BaB). Because you’re frequently going to be making only a single attack, Furious Focus (from Advanced Players Guide) is a nice bump. All in all, there aren’t a lot of feats you “need” to make use of a 2-handed melee weapon, so this is a nice secondary role you can fill without too many feats spent.
Spell Focus: You’re going to have problems with saves as you level, and this will certainly help. Don’t hesitate to get all the way to Greater Spell Focus as early as level 5 if you’re specializing in direct damage or debuffing, as you’re going to want the better saves.
Spell Penetration: After about level 7 you’re going to start seeing more and more creatures with Spell Resistance. Luckily it’s a caster level check, so you’re not penalized for being a 6-level caster, but you’re still going to appreciate the added chance to break through resistance. You can wait till level 7 or 9 to pick this up, however.
Toughness: I can’t say this enough, more hit points is good. Even if you don’t think you need them, if you’re at a loss for what to take as a feat, Toughness can keep you alive.
Two-Weapon Fighting Feats: Since Occult Magic doesn’t have somatic components it is possible to work with a two-weapon combatant. However, as a 3/4th BaB character the negative to hit is a bit more noticeable for you. In general this feat heavy chain isn’t as efficient as taking Power Attack and just using a two-hander.
Weapon Finesse: You don’t have a lot of touch attacks, but the few you do can benefit from Weapon Finesse if you have a high dex instead of a high strength.
Weapon Focus: A +1 to hit can help shore up your lower BaB, but the rest of the chain probably isn’t worth diving into for an Occultist.
Item Creation Feats: You just don’t have enough spells to create a wide range of options without lots of Spellcraft checks. However, if your GM allows these feats, it can help push up your wealth by level. You can also use it to enchant your implements at a discount so that they pull double duty. Craft Wondrous Items is your best bet here, and your fellow party members will appreciate it as well.
Metamagic Feats: Here’s a tricky one, as the spells you do get don’t benefit too much from metamagic feats. You gain spell levels so slowly that increasing the spell slot requirement for an effect is rarely worth the jump. You just don’t have the breadth of spells that a full caster has. However, Extend and Heighten can be worth it, especially if you’re buffing (extend) or debuffing (Heighten), so those two are green. Additionally, there are some tricks you can pull with the Magical Lineage trait (which reduces the level of the spell by 1 as long as you toss on a metamagic feat) if you really want to maximize the effectiveness of a single spell. This will hurt your save DC so you’re going to need to choose your spell wisely.
Occult Adventures Feats
I’m bumping Occult Adventures up on the list (rather than the normal chronological release order) because it includes feats specifically for the Occultist.
Psychic Duel Feats: If you’re doing a lot of Psychic Duels, there are a variety of options to help boost up your duel abilities. In non-occult campaigns, however, these aren’t as important, since most creatures won’t put up too much of a fight. If you want to lock people down with psychic duels, however, you can start picking these up after you get level 2 spells.
Efficient Focus Shift: If you’re having problems properly planning where to put your Focus each day then this feat will help you fix your mistakes. However, by 7th level you should have a good handle on things.
Extend Resonant Power: If you’ve got a Conjuration implement this can make it useful to someone at least. Otherwise, this can help provide a buff to a party member, especially if you have other spellcasters in the group.
Extra Focus Power: Focus powers are great, usually far more potent than a single feat, so getting more of them is always a plus. More importantly, you gain feats at the same level as focus powers, so when you hit key levels (like 5th) you can pickup two good powers instead of waiting.
Extra Mental Focus: 2 Focus points may not sound like a lot, but the more you have the happier you’ll be, especially early on. This makes a great 1st level feat.
Implement Focus: If you’re running around with a lot of focus in your generic pool (which I don’t recommend) then this will certainly help. Planning for your day, however, is a big part of the class (like a wizard) so it’s probably better to just get used to thinking ahead instead of using your generic pool too much.
Rapid Focus Shift: If you’re needing to shift focus from instruments this quickly, and this often, then you’re probably better off tanking Extra Mental Focus so you simply have more to go around.
Strong Implement Link: The trick with this feat is to share your implement. You can charge it up in the morning and hand it off, allowing your party sorcerer, for instance, to benefit from your Evocation Implement. As long as you’re within 30 feet of him you can cast with impunity. It’s a surprisingly convenient (and potent) buff for a fellow party member if you’re willing to let someone else hog the glory. That or you have someone in the group who can actually conjure. You do give up access to your associated Focus Powers, however, so that pushes this down into the orange.
Advanced Player’s Guide Feats
From here on out I’m just going to touch on the green and blue feats, to keep things from getting out of hand.
Crossbow Mastery: If you’re going the ranged attack route with a crossbow don’t miss this feat.
Elemental Focus: If you’re throwing around a lot of fire and lightning then this stacks with Spell Focus (evocation) and can help get your save DC’s as high as possible.
Expanded Arcana: This might get an errata, but for now it would let you add spells to your spell list from the Implements you have. This is particularly good for the Implements with a variety of spells, or with good spells all crammed into a few levels (like Evocation or Transmutation).
Furious Focus: I mentioned this above in the Power Attack description. This is surprisingly good for 2-handed martial Occultists, as it lets you boost your accuracy substantially for your first attack each round. It’s worth picking up around 5th-level if you’re in melee a lot (although it can wait till 7 or 9 if you have more pressing feats to take).
Ultimate Combat Feats
There isn’t a lot for an Occultist in Ultimate Combat, as Style feats comprise the bulk of options. But there’s a few good options not to be overlooked.
Clustered Shots: This can really help you overcome damage resistance, if you’re using ranged weapons this can make a big difference.
Destructive Dispel: If you’re going to be using Dispel Magic to dispel frequently then this feat is pretty effective. It’s only worth taking if you fight a lot of spellcasters though, and if you’re willing to hold your action to dispel. If this is the case, however, this quickly jumps up to blue.
Dimensional Agility Chain: If you’re going to use dimension door frequently, this can provide some interesting tricks. While most classes have to multi-class to make use of these feats in melee, the Occultist doesn’t. The effects of the feats, however, aren’t powerful enough to rate them highly, but they are fun. You don’t get Dimension Door very early, however, so this will be a late game option for you.
Dispel Synergy: Another boost if you dispel frequently.
Ultimate Magic Feats
Many of these feats are designed for specific classes, but there are a few worth looking at for the Occultist.
Antagonize: An Abjuration focused Occultist can make an amazing tank, if only he had a mechanic for attracting the attention of a single enemy… and this feat gives him that.
Detect Expertise: If you enjoy using divination magic to get a leg up on enemies, then this can help a lot. It is particularly useful in investigation focused campaigns, as the abilities of a target are huge clues in a “who done it.”
Eldritch Heritage Chain: Gaining the benefits of a sorcerer bloodline can vary from terrible to amazing. One notably great options to look at is Arcana (for Arcane Bond),
Extra Cantrips or Orisons: This technically doesn’t work for the Occultist, because he has Knacks, not Catnrips/Orisons. However I can’t imagine a non-PFS GM having an issue with the feat. If you’ve got Knacks you want to pick up (like multiple divination 0-level spells) talk to your GM about being allowed to take this feat. Technically, expanded arcana can also let you select two 0-level spells.
Spell Specialization: If you’re tossing around a lot of Evocation spells with damage die per level (like fireball) then Spell Specialization can boost that damage considerably. The feat itself allows you to choose a new spell at regular intervals, so once you’ve maxed out the levels on a spell you can apply the feat to something new.
Undead Master: If you’re working towards an undead horde you probably don’t actually need this. However, if you’re trying to build one big bloody skeleton (or the similar) then this feat can really help turn that dragon you just killed into your new pet.
Advanced Class Guide Feats
Most of these feats focus on the new classes in the book, but again, there are some great options.
Amateur Investigator: As an Int class this is an amazing ability in an investigation heavy campaign.
Barroom Brawler: If you’ve got a variety of combat feats you wish you had, then this will give you some added flexibility. Only take this if you really know your combat feat options well, however, as it can slow the game down if you’re searching through books.
Believer’s Boon: If you follow a god with good domains (trickery is amazing, as is travel) then this is blue, otherwise it’s likely green, as most god’s have at least one decent domain ability.
Slashing Grace: If you’re going with a dex build, this is close to a requirement, as it represents a big jump in damage. It’s a bit feat intensive, however, and dex is not the Occultists most efficient route to melee fighting.
It’s easier to break traits up into groups, as many perform similar functions. There are a few traits that benefit from some special attention, and we’ll discuss those individually. There is an amazing guide to traits here, and there isn’t much need for me to go over them all now. I’ll touch on the big blue options only.
Skill Traits: Gaining a new skill in class can help round out a character. Occultists have enough skill points to go around so picking up a skill you don’t have like Knowledge (Dungeoneering), Bluff, or Intimidate gives you a big boost to flexibility.
+1 Save Traits: A bonus to saves never hurts, especially since you can shore up your reflex save.
Reactionary: If you’re a debuffer or controller build, going first is extremely helpful.
Focused Mind: A bonus to concentration checks will help if you’re going to be on the front lines.
Magical Lineage: You’ll have to find a spell that benefits greatly from metamagic, and then take metamagic feats to make this worth while. If you do, however, you can pull of some neat tricks. One example is to take Shocking Grasp and the Reach metamagic feat, giving you a decent ranged touch attack in your first level spell slot.
There are a lot of magic items and the Occultist interacts with them a bit differently than most, because not all item bonuses stack with the abilities of an Occultist. Cloak of Resistance, for instance, won’t stack with the benefits of the Abjuration Implement. It is vitally important that you check the type of bonus granted by items, to be sure their effects stack.
A +1 Weapon, is a priority for melee characters. Not just for the bonus it provides on its own, but because it unlocks Legacy Weapon’s ability to grant other effects, like Keen and Bane, at low levels. Between Lead Blades and Bane you can have a Greatsword that deals 5d6+2+1.5 Str + Power Attack damage.
Likewise, +1 Armor and Shields open up Aegis in the Abjuration Implement. Give the special armor and shield abilities a read, there is something for almost any situation available to you. Defiant functions much like Bane, so you can add +2 AC and DR 2/- to your armor/shield.
Metamagic Rods are also a huge boon. Rather than spending feats on metamagic, an Extend or Heighten rod provides 3 uses per day of a very convenient feat.
From Occult Adventures there is also the Ring of Psychic Mastery. By the time you can afford it, it hands out 4 additional spells per day(a single spell slot of levels 1 to 4). This is especially good for characters who had to cast a spell multiple times (like healers or nukers).
Lastly is the Refocusing Rod. At 5000gp this rod is cheap enough to rate much better than taking the Efficient Focus Shift feat. It even provides other functionality that the feat doesn’t.
Next up, Archetypes & Builds!